Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 23.djvu/403

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public opinion is necessary to make work in any special direction possible.

No one can work independently of others. The training that qualifies for any pursuit, the necessary relations to others engaged in it, the patronage which pays for it—all these are absolutely requisite for its successful prosecution, and these are given or withheld by the force of public opinion. The point at issue in this discussion is, How far can women advantageously take part in the great system of modern industry? Is the effort they are making to enter occupations from which they have hitherto been excluded justifiable '? Is it the expression of a real need? Will their success be a benefit or an injury to themselves and to society?

Upon this subject there are two views, the holders of which are endeavoring to enlist on their side this final arbiter of the question, the force of public opinion. On one side it is held that women urgently need greater facilities for work; a wider range of occupations, in order to give them greater power of self-support; that many grave social evils result from this want. It is maintained that the claims accompanying this effort, for equal general and special education, for participation in any kind of work which women feel that they can do, for employment in any occupation for which they have fitted themselves, are just; that the movement is in the direction of progress, and that it is the interest of society to support it. On the other side it is urged that woman has her own peculiar sphere, that of domestic life and work. This, well understood and followed, is sufficient for her. She is unfitted by her physical and mental constitution for the occupations carried on by men. Success in the effort she is making in this direction is impossible. The attempt is leading her to do violence to her own organization, to abandon or slight domestic life, and to become an inferior competitor instead of a companion to man. Progress is to be sought, not by favoring the effort, but by promoting such an extension of home-life as shall render it unnecessary.

Both parties are agreed as to the paramount importance of domestic life. This being admitted, the objection to non-domestic work for women is based upon the implied supposition that, were domestic life as universal as it should be, the domestic work connected with it would be sufficient to absorb the great body of women-workers.

To estimate the force of this objection, let us consider what is meant by the terms domestic life and domestic work. There are two elements in the domestic position of women: first, their personal relation to the family as wives and mothers; secondly, the work which necessarily devolves upon them in the fulfillment of the duties of these relations. The first, the personal relation, is a fixed and constant element. It grows out of the constitution of human beings, and exists under every form of society. It attains its highest expression wherever the union of one man and one woman is the foundation of the family.